#11: Creative advice … or not

The intro quote takes me on an unexpected, and slightly unwelcome trip down memory lane. Plus Hellboy!


“You will never be good enough and that’s ok. Trying to get better is what really matters. The joy of what we do is in the making.” This was said to me by a visiting artist in school when I was 11 and it stayed with me.

Jorge Gutierrez

I’m not sure I got any good artistic advice when I was a kid – at least nothing that stuck with me. I drew a lot and enjoyed it. There was an art teacher in grammar school – Mrs. Caserta – who I liked a lot. She offered art classes outside of school that I really wanted to take, except my parents were concerned about money. Somehow they didn’t think twice when they made me take music lesson before or after when I wanted to learn guitar – all for The College Application.

Come to think of it, art was never something to be taken seriously in my house. Which is weird, because my dad went to art school, where he met a friend who brought him home. That friend was one of my mom’s grand uncles, who has spent his entire life as a working artist – illustrations and stuff. No one really knows for sure because he kept details to himself and made a concerted effort to be as abrasive as possible to most people. He found all of my cousins annoying, except for me – because I could draw.

person holding white scroll
This was a waste of time and money.

So my dad has a degree in art that he’s never used. Once when I was a kid I got some watercolors and perhaps I goaded him into doing it – he quickly painted the tv and the lamp on top of it that was quite good. It reminded me of some of the watercolors I’d seen in children’s books and is still technically better than any painting I can do.

Over the years we’ve occasionally given him gifts of art supplies that he seemed excited by but never used. He’s clearly got some hang up about it (now that he’s older and retired, his excuse is that he has trouble with his hands)(yes, it sounds like an excuse, he’s probably been making them for years).

Art eventually faded for me and I stopped drawing after college (where I took one art class on life drawing with pencils that bored the shit out of me). I only found my way back to art after becoming an uncle and having kids. Parenting renewed my interest in animation, which also led me back to comics.

I met Neal at comic-con a few years back :)
I met Neal at comic-con a few years back 🙂

It never once crossed my mind that Neal Adams was someone who got paid to draw for a living. Or that there was a whole crew of people working on the cartoons I loved so much.

And when I talked about becoming a writer, the immediate response from Indian adults was maybe I could become a journalist, because it was too hard to become a successful writer of fiction. This stupid idea stayed with me, as I wrote for the school newspaper and ended up going to journalism school, where I lasted one class before ditching the program because they wouldn’t let me use long words.

I forgot where I read or heard it but passion-adjacent work is a trap. It’s better than doing something you hate, but I it sucks up the time and energy for the work you want to do.

This is kinda dour this morning, isn’t it? I saved that quote because it’s pertinent to me as a creator now. I get & embrace that it’s a process. But I didn’t notice the bit about him getting the advice at 11, which sent me down memory lane.

Just know that I parent VERY differently as a result.


What I’m reading

Damn Fine Story

Damn Fine Story

I took copious notes while reading this, one of Chuck Wendig’s books on writing. It focuses almost completely on character, which was much needed. I’ve read a lot on story structure (Dan Harmon, the hero’s journey, Save the Cat, etc.), which led to focusin on plot over character development.

This book smacked some sense into me, and gave me a better understanding of why I’m getting stuck in my stories – I don’t know who my characters truly are. Which has me back to the drawing board on writing (that’s code for It blew my mind and I didn’t get a lot of writing done this week because it’s daunting af to start over).

Hellboy Omnibus Volume One: Seed of Destruction

Hellboy Omnibus Volume One: Seed of Destruction

After learning last week that Mike Mignola influenced Steven Universe, I started reading Hellboy again, which I’d never finished anyway. I’ve read it on & off for years and kinda missed that it had an overall storyline, until I saw and studiously avoided the Hellboy in Hell arc.

Reading it all together makes the story more apparent (I’m not sure if they changed the sequences of anything, I have a vague recollection of looking up the chronological reading order a few years back). And along with the reading I’ve been basking in Mignola’s are, and how he taking spotting blacks (which I only learned about last week) to an extreme.

I also spent a couple of hours just drawing Mignola-style hands. I need to get better at hands because I’ve drawn them in wildly inconsistent styles in the short comic I’m working on.

All 4 Omnibus editions, plus the fun Short Stories volumes, are available on Hoopla.


That’s it this week. I feel like I’ve been through an emotional wringer. Hopefully you didn’t get bored in the process.

So I gotta know if I’m the only one:

Did you get any good creative advice as a child?

Photo of author


Arp Laszlo

Hi, I’m Arp! I make comics and write about life as an Indian-American with late-diagnosis ADHD. I’m a self-taught and self-employed creator so I write a lot about art, learning, and entrepreneurial stuff that I’ve picked up along the way.

My stories are kinda weird, because that’s just how I am. My formative influences are Indian mythology, Batman, Tintin, 70s Bollywood, Ray Harryhausen, and Monty Python. There’s no way anything normal could come out of that, right?

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